Monday, July 02, 2007

What's in your water?

On our second week of learning about health in the slums, our team finally decided to focus on water quality and purification methods. During our health surveys we were finding diarrhea (13%) and fever(30%) to be huge causes of child visits to the doctor, two possible symptoms of drinking contaminated water. In fact, child mortality due to diarrhea is still considered to be a huge threat to child health in much of India.
We were all happy to take a break from straight surveying to inquire into households about how/where they store their water. Many families led us straight to their water containers and also showed us their water sources ( well, government water supplied tap, government truck tap). Our team was hoping that clues in how these families treated their water would help us gain insight into their sickness and also allow us to give back some advice, since we are coming from a tech/health-savy world that understands so much about germ theory etc.

Our team surveying families in A-Block, a slum close to the Deepalaya school.

An elderly woman showing us her water storage method. The uncovered tan bucket is water she uses for bathing. Uncovered containers and using one's hand to retrieve water from a container are two ways in which the quality of the drinking water (which is already unfiltered/treated) can get worse- often due to microbial contamination.

Our slum visits have been particularly trying recently due to a recent boom in slum flies. Flies swarm in the air as thick as pollen on a horrible allergy day in Massachusetts. It's hard to see how people can cope with this infestation of flies in addition to their problems with sewage and waste. Insects coupled with the nauseating smell of human waste and pools of sewage definetly make me thankful for life in the U.S. and also completely in awe of how people can live and even thrive in these situations.

So daily we spend about 2 hours in the slums and then head back to Meadows (our guest house and part of the RF campus) to meet and discuss our day's data and future plans. We are planning to create a play for Wednesday that we'll present to the school children of Deepalaya (many of whom come from nearby slums) that focuses on advice about education, sanitation/water storage methods, and the importance of vaccinations.

Our team has taken to eating much more regularly at the school canteen, a place where we mingle with other students enthusiastic to practice their english with us and where we can get a taste of more local food- a shot of our dinner tray:

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